KEIGHLEY Cougars reserves head coach Dean Muir says he's gutted for his squad after they missed out on a place in next season's new reserve grade competition involving Super League sides.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) have revealed the 15-team 2020 line-up, with applications from Halifax and Betfred League One's Newcastle Thunder accepted.

They will join the 11 English Betfred Super League clubs, plus Bradford Bulls and Widnes Vikings from the Betfred Championship, who each have Category One-funded academies.

The sport's governing body says Cougars' application was rejected due to them not meeting selection criteria including a reliance on recruiting players from the "community game" for their squad.

Muir says Cougars respect the RFL's decision and will still prioritise producing home-grown players.

He said: "I'm gutted, but I'm more gutted for the players.

"I understand the decision and that the RFL want it to be an elite band competition.

"We will continue to produce young players. We're working really hard to make sure we have a development pathway in place right through to the first team. We're still going to try to get Keighley lads into the first-team.

"We fought really hard to make sure we got there with the RFL.

"We respect the decision and we will do something to make sure we have the best chance to produce our own in a college academy system from September 2020."

Cougars also confirmed they will see out their remaining reserves fixtures for this season.

Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s interim chief on-field officer, said: “Halifax have been committed to the importance of reserve team rugby for a number of years, while Newcastle also submitted a thorough application which stressed the quality and quantity of their player supply through their established Academy structure.

“We have explained to Keighley Cougars and Whitehaven that their applications fell short in meeting some of the essential criteria including that the proposed supply of players for both clubs would have significantly relied upon recruiting players from the community game.

“We will continue to support them, and other clubs, as we monitor the return of the structured reserve grade competition next season – which as stated previously, is seen as a vital step in the talent and performance pathway, developing high quality players for Super League and England.”

Reserve Grade, 2020 line-up: Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers, Halifax, Huddersfield Giants, Hull FC, Hull KR, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos, Newcastle Thunder, Salford Red Devils, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity, Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings, Wigan Warriors.

On Saturday, Cougars Reserves will face an Irish Representative side at Cougar Park (4.30pm kick-off). Afterwards there will be an Irish night in the clubhouse, with entertainment by Paddy Murray, Joe Gill, Irish singer, and Irish dancers from Manchester including a male all Ireland champion. Free admission from 7pm, or £5 if you attend the match.

Meanwhile, Keighley-born Muir, 33, has been appointed as first-team assistant coach to Rhys Lovegrove, 32. The move is part of a new-look structure at Cougars which includes Frank Levy being named team manager.

Muir added: "It's amazing. I dreamed of being a player but I was never quick enough.

"This has taken a lot of hard work, I have been coaching from the age of 18.

"I have connected really well with Rhys. It's exciting. I know it's going to be tough, but it's a dream job.

"I was a ball boy at 12 during the first Cougarmania times.

"It helps being a younger coach. I have a good connection with the players. I have coached 30 to 40 per cent of them at scholarship and academy level.

"I'm a rugby geek. We're already having meetings about next year. We've got to make sure we're on the front foot for next year."

Lovegrove said: "Deano was my first choice to be number two.

"He has a great history and knowledge here at the Cougars and his track record when it comes to teaching and developing younger players is second to none.

"I'm delighted that he has agreed to step up to the role and I look forward to what we can teach and deliver both on and off the field."

Cougars face a tricky task in Betfred League One on Sunday when they welcome leaders Whitehaven to Cougar Park (3pm).

Cougars' end-of-season presentation evening will take place at Cougar Park on Saturday, September 28 from 7.30pm.